2011 Annual Meeting
Friday, Jan. 7, 11:00 am-12:30pm
Convenor: Sohail Hashmi, Mount Holyoke College
"Historical Reasoning and Political Judgement in ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s Islam and the Sources of Authority"
James Broucek, Florida State University
This paper corrects current misinterpretations of ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s famous work Islam and the Sources of Authority. It is commonly regarded as one of the earliest examples of a classically-trained Muslim scholar arguing for the religious legitimacy of secular governments. I contend that Islam and the Sources of Authority is a revisionist historical argument purporting to explain the origins of the caliphate. While ‘Abd al-Raziq draws from traditional Islamic sources, the way he reads those sources is very much influenced by European scholarship. Specifically, I demonstrate that ‘Abd al-Raziq employed methods of historical-critical reasoning that he first learned while attending Carlo Nallino’s lectures on the history of Arabic literature at the Egyptian University.
"Making Peace with Israel?: The Bin Baz-Qaradawi Debate"
Mohammad Hassan Khalil, University of Illinois
Nearly fifteen years ago, the leading Saudi scholar Bin Baz (d. 1999) issued a famous fatwa affirming the permissibility of Palestinian Muslims signing a peace treaty with Israel. In response, the ever-prominent Egyptian jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a counter-fatwa proclaiming peace with Israel to be impermissible (haram). What followed was a back-and-forth debate that captured the attention of the Arab and Muslim world. In this paper, I examine each scholar's legal methodology, specific arguments, and assessment of the facts on the ground. I also situate this discourse in relation to classical and modern doctrines of jihad, including those articulated by contemporary scholars of Islam. Finally, I explore the implications of this debate for shari‘a, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and global relations.
"Assymetric Warfare and Islamic Ethics"
Nahed Artoul Zehr, Florida State University
While al-Qa’ida’s use of irregular methods is not a novel development, it departs in significant ways from the larger narrative of irregular war (as a broad, historical category). Consequently, the overall aims of this paper are twofold. First, to provide a historic and thematic outline of guerrilla war. Drawing on classic texts, and focusing on major developments and themes, this paper provides a foundation for understanding al-Qa’ida’s links to the tradition of asymmetric war. Second, this paper will describe how al-Qa’ida’s military tactics, while remaining faithful to certain conceptual and tactical elements of guerrilla war, are a distinct subcategory because of its appeals to religious texts, tradition, and other forms of authority, as well as the emphasis it places on terrorism as a legitimate tactic of asymmetric warfare.
Friday, Jan. 7, 2:00-3:30 pm
Convenor: Simeon Ilesanmi, Wake Forest University
"Whither Qur’anic Ethics?: The Literal Sense of the Qur’an in the Thematic-Atomistic Debate"
Rumee Ahmed, Colgate University
The medieval tradition of Qur’ān interpretation is characterized by an atomistic approach to the text. In response many commentators have promoted a more thematic method of interpretation. This paper argues that the intent of medieval atomistic interpretation needs to be reconceived in light of the thematic approach. The medieval tradition can be seen as merely another type of thematic interpretation in which an overarching conception of the cosmos informs and orders interpretation. Through the framework of narrative theology, atomistic interpretations are described as approximating the same literal sense of the Qur’an that thematic interpretations attempt to uncover, although medieval commentators understood the “sense” of the Qur’an differently. This paper concludes that in both the atomistic and the thematic approaches, a larger ethical concern of the particular author of the commentary drives and determines the interpretations produced.
"Contemporary Muslim Ethics of Stoning: Implications for the Concept of Sunna"
Sarah Eltantawi, Harvard University
Sunna, described by Robert Hoyland as a practice of the tribe validated by tradition, has developed as a dialectic concept and practice over fourteen centuries of Islamic history. Sunna, and not the Qur’an, gives legal force to the stoning punishment in the Islamic legal tradition, which is meted out for the crime of adultery (zina). My paper considers how the concept of sunna is reinscribed and altered by Nigerian particularities through analyzing the resurgence of the stoning punishment in contemporary northern Nigeria (colloquially known as Hausaland), after the region began (re)introducing Islamic law in 1999.
"The Impact of Modern Technology on Islamic Law and Ethics: The Debate on DNA Paternity Tests in Egypt"
Ayman Shabana, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service - Qatar
In 2005 a paternity suit shocked the Egyptian public and started a heated debate over the permissibility of using DNA tests for establishing paternity. It was also seen as an important precedent questioning the authority of classical Islamic family law. The case pertains to larger questions of continuity and the parameters of permissible change in Islamic law. It also raises important issues about the relationship between law and ethics. Islamic law has always been connected with Islamic ethics, which is seen as implied in the different legal enactments. This paper uses this paternity suit as a case study to explore the impact of modern technology on Islamic law and ethics. The case has stirred important discussions on its various legal and ethical implications. At the heart of these discussions there is one central question: If change in law is a necessity, can the same be said about ethics as well?
Saturday, Jan. 8, 9:00-10:30am
Convenor: Irene Oh, George Washington University
"Human Dignity and Islamic Bioethics: Conflicts and Proposed Solutions"
Kiarash Aramesh and Arash Aramesh, Tehran University of Medical Sciences
This paper discusses controversies raised by modern notions of human dignity within Islamic bioethics. We focus on the Shi’ite sect and the experience of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These conflicts can be divided into two main categories: (1) conflicts resulting from acceptable variations in interpreting the notion of human dignity, for instance in embryonic stem cell research and abortion, and in euthanasia; (2) conflicts resulting from a paradigm shift in the concept of human dignity, particularly as it relates to allocation of scarce resources and commercialization of body parts, including surrogate motherhood.
"Can Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Permissible in Islam?"
Hossein Godazgar, Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies
Christianity, Judaism and Islam tend to argue against any form of suicide, including physician-assisted suicide, because of the notion of the sanctity of life. In Islam, the prohibition on suicide is generally based on the Qur’anic verse: “Do not kill yourselves, surely God is merciful to you.” My question is: Can we reach a different conclusion from this verse? This paper attempts to show the clear ambivalence of classical sources with respect to suicide, in general, and physician-assisted suicide, in particular. Furthermore, and more importantly, informed by the philosophical notions of instrumental, intrinsic, and personal value as well as a social constructionist approach to “Islam,” this paper addresses the case of physician assisted suicide and examines the question: “Can ‘Islam’ be socially constructed in such a way as to permit the view that life can be ‘valuable to’ or ‘not valuable to’ a person?”
"Beyond Principalism in Biomedical Ethics: Maslaha Mursala in Muslim Praxis"
Amyn B. Sajoo, Simon Fraser University
This paper revisits the locus of bioethical principles—and the interplay of traditional and secular medical ethics—in Islamic settings, with specific regard to the mediatory role of maslaha or public welfare. I contend that an enabling device for the mediation of principles and contexts can be sought in maslaha, grounded in a long history of ethical thought and practice. It has served as a steering device to ameliorate the formalism of law, notably in the form ofmaslaha mursala, which allows for its application beyond the confines of shari‘a norms, in the service of the public good. Maslaha mursala is especially relevant amid the ethical problems posed by new biomedical technologies and healthcare options. To serve effectively in this regard, however, maslahamust evolve further as an applied concept.
Saturday, Jan. 8, 7:00-9:30pm
SSME Business Meeting
Sunday, Jan. 9, 9:00-10:30am